Former Warriors surgeon calls Klay's injury 'devastating blow,' but expects 'great things' after recovery

ByJulianne Herrera KGO logo
Friday, November 20, 2020
Surgeon demonstrates what happened to Klay Thompson's Achilles
A former Warriors doctor demonstrates what happened to Klay Thompson's Achilles tendon, and what we should expect to see from him when he recovers.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Draft day was bitter-sweet for the Warriors organization and Dub Nation.

About an hour before making the second pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, devastating news about Klay Thompson's new injury overshadowed the excitement for Golden State.

RELATED: Warriors' Klay Thompson has torn Achilles, will miss season

Just when everyone thought the Warriors were poised to make a comeback championship run with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson seemingly recovered to full strength, and a strong, young center in James Wiseman, the news hit home that Klay will miss another season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

It's a "devastating blow," said Doctor John Belzer M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at California Pacific Orthopedics.

Devastating, to say the least, and the injury report is stirring up questions about how long Klay will be out, and if he can make a full recovery, especially considering he had just came back from an ACL tear that took him out of the 2019-2020 season.

RELATED: What is a torn ACL? Former Warriors surgeon demonstrates what happened to Klay Thompson's knee

Dr. Belzer joined ABC7 News to answer some of those questions.

What exactly causes a torn Achilles tendon?

"When somebody is jumping, they are pulling up on their Achilles, their foot goes down, and that's how they're jumping up in the air," Dr. Belzer said.

"What happened with Klay is when a player goes backwards and explodes forward, and we saw this if you ever watched the videos on Kevin (Durant's) injury, is that as the foot is being forced this way, from the force of the acceleration, at the same time as the Achilles is pulling, the tendon pulls in the opposite direction and ruptures," he explained, using a model skeleton of a human foot.

In plain terms, as the heel moves downward, the muscle pulls up.

"It's basically like pulling a piece of paper apart, it snaps," Dr. Belzer said.

He explained that because athletes are so strong, and explode with so much force forward, "oftentimes the Achilles just doesn't stand a chance."

How difficult is it to repair an Achilles injury and what's the recovery time?

"So from a surgical standpoint, it's a very straight forward procedure. There's a number of ways to do it. Generally, we do it open to get the best and strongest repair. Surgery is less than an hour," he said.

The surgery is the "easy" part, in comparison to the road that lies ahead after.

"The recovery is essentially crutches for a period of time to allow that tendon to heal, but then it's really about the recovery."

In order for the tendon to bounce back to full strength, he says it takes nine months, if not longer.

This injury is to Klay's right leg, and happened just after he recovered from an ACL tear in the opposite leg. Is this common? Is it about overcompensation?

Dr. Belzer says this question comes up a lot with back-to-back injuries, as it did with former Warrior Kevin Durant.

But ultimately, "it's more about the nature of the sport, and the amount of stress that they're putting on their joints."

Assuming the injury goes well, should we expect to see the same Klay Thompson on the court when he recovers?

"These guys are competitors and they work harder than anybody than I've ever seen. I think Klay will get back to a level that will allow him to participate at an elite level like he has for many years. I expect great things out of Klay for a few more years before he hangs up his shoes."

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